Jon Snodgrass is a man that transcends genres, sort of. I mean, basically, he plays both rock and country. But, whichever of the two genres he isn’t playing tends to bleed into the genre he is playing. Five-State Record starts off with a rock song called “Hey Dennis.” It has a great beat and Snodgrass continues to show that he can use his more country-tinged vocals on a rock song and make it work great. Things slow down drastically--and shift to more of the country side of things--with “Weighing in on St. Michael” and, as great as “Dennis” was, “St. Michael” shows Snodgrass still has the ability to get at one’s emotions. Delivered perfectly with lines like “They say you wasted a life / But I say that you lived it / They say that time flies / I know you lived more than most did,” it seems to be a song for a friend that moved away.
“Campaign Song ’93” goes back to being plugged in, but starts off fairly low key before eventually having the full band playing. When the band is playing behind Snodgrass, the song sounds like it would have fit in on Armchair Martian’s Hang on Ted. Following is a song that anyone who bought Drag the River’s 2010 Demons will be familiar with, “Bad Kreuznach.” Here, the song doesn’t sound too different--most notably, it is louder. A fairly mellow, but somewhat catchy song, it was one of my lesser favorites on 2010 Demons and I would have definitely preferred a different song. Next up is “Regi Song,” it is short and very simple--sounds just like Snodgrass with an acoustic guitar with a little bit of backing vocals singing “It’s the Regi song”--but it works great.
“Song for Gibson” is a song that I remember hearing a demo of back in the days of MySpace. I’m glad to see it getting properly released because it was a great song and I’d almost somehow forgotten about it. A song in the same vein as “Regi Song”--both in simplicity, catchiness, tone and being clearly written for one person--it is a song for a friend’s son and includes lines about making a “sock buddy” for Gibson. This song, combined with "Spiderman, Wolfman," might as well be a résumé sent to Mike Park to get signed to Fun Fun Records. With that said, “Song for Gibson” makes me wish another MySpace demo, “Weed and Wine,” was on this album--but that might put a damper on a successful children’s music career.
The album continues on with “Hopper,” which starts off in the same mellow, simple style of the previous couple tracks before it eventually gets bouncier and more instruments come in. The song has the great line “Hey now, it’s not a crime to live your life,” and, overall, has a positive message about not worrying about what others think because, as Snodgrass sings, “I’m not ashamed of anything,” and the song transitions to a sound I can only describe as “twinkly,” with a piano and losing the drums.
After a fairly lighthearted middle comes “They’re Not Friends” and, as the title indicates, it is a bit darker with a sound closest to “Weighing in on St. Michael.” The “serious” songs continue through the rest of the record with “Excitable” up next. Unfortunately, for people with a complete Snodgrass collection, this song is a re-titled “Alone & Distanced” off his split with Cory Branan. While it is a great song, one can’t help but be a little disappointed to hear a song they already heard when they are expecting something new. The track features Snodgrass’ signature twang. Finishing off the record is another song originally on the Cory Branan split, “Born Apart;” a great song to be sure, but I would have preferred another brand new song. However, those who didn’t buy the Branan split are in for a treat.
Five-State Record is an import from Germany, making it a little pricey. Despite some songs I was already familiar with, I think the album is worth the money. If you don’t like Snodgrass, this release isn’t going to change your opinion. If you like Armchair Martian, but are not a Drag the River fan, then this album is only going to have a few songs for you. Overall, Five-State Record manages to showcase Snodgrass’ ability to play rock and to play country, to play fun songs and to play sad songs. It doesn’t always flow perfectly between a speedy song transitioning to a slow song and it seems a little weird to have upbeat, catchy songs followed by downers (although putting “Hopper” between “Song for Gibson” and “They Aren’t Friends” shows some awareness of this), but the album is still full of great songs played by one of the more underrated singer/songwriters out there currently (and friends).